Villanova head coach Jay Wright has been listed as one of the finalists for the 2021 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class. The completed list of finalists was announced on March 9 and includes a who’s who of famous basketball names.
The finalists are Rick Adelman, Leta Andrews, Chris Bosh, Michael Cooper, Yolanda Griffith, Tim Hardaway, Lauren Jackson, Marques Johnson, Paul Pierce, (Coach) Bill Russell, Marianne Stanley, Ben Wallace, Chris Webber and Wright.
The Basketball Hall of Fame is very selective on who it inducts - it doesn't just want members who have made phenomenal pedigrees for themselves as players, coaches, contributors and broadcasters. It wants people who have impacted the game of basketball in a way that both embodies the culture fans love about the sport, as well as those who have and will continue to move it forward. The list of those who have accomplished this to a notable and observable extent on the collegiate level is small -- Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari, Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim and Bill Self all come to mind. But right with them is Wright.
Wright graduated from Bucknell University in 1983, playing for its basketball team all four years. Upon graduating, his first stop was an assistant coach with the Division III Yellowjackets of the University of Rochester. His stint with Division I started off as an assistant for the Drexel Dragons in 1986. From 1987-92, he was an assistant under then Villanova head coach Rollie Massimino. He followed him to UNLV, where he stayed until 1994. He got his first head coaching gig with the Hofstra Pride, who had not been performing at their best up until that point throughout the 80s. Wright was able to shift the culture of the program, getting Hofstra to NCAA Tournament appearances in 2000 and 2001.
In 2001, Wright got the call to lead the Wildcats program, and the rest is history. In his 20-year stint here so far, he has taken Villanova to six Big East Conference Championship titles, 15 NCAA Tournament appearances, three Sweet Sixteen appearances, an Elite Eight appearance, a Final Four and two NCAA National Championships in 2016 and 2018.
Wright has single handedly instilled a culture into Villanova’s basketball program that seeps into all components of the Villanova campus, both academic and social. "Villanova Basketball'' is a product of the mind of Wright. This includes grit, grind and most importantly attitude. He has shown that you not only need a bunch of McDonald's All Americans to be successful, but that creating an atmosphere that makes our most talented players want to stay for three or four years to develop themselves around the team can actually be the key to making it to the top.
That exact culture and style has not only responsible for the banners that hang in the Pavilion, but has produced nine current Wildcat NBA players: Kyle Lowry, Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Omari Spellman, Jalen Brunson, Eric Paschall and Saddiq Bey. All of these players continue to embody the Villanova spirit in whatever professional club they are a part of, taking Wright's legacy and impact with them.
It is this kind of impact that makes the case for why Wright should make the basketball Hall of Fame. Not only has he put up the numbers to deserve it, but his name will influence the world of basketball. This is not the first time he has been elected a finalist, and if he doesn't quite make the cut this year, it won't be his last.